Aussie Hugh Jackman continues to be on a Hollywood roll. Though still based in Australia, Hugh is having a blast working with the very best that Hollywood has to offer. In his latest film, Swordfish, Jackman shares the screen with both superstar John Travolta and a topless Halle Berry. Jackman talked stardom, female fans, being an action star and spills the beans on the new X-Men.
Hugh Jackman just finishes giving his Swordfish co-star John Travolta a big hug. “As you can see we’ve become very close”. The last time Hugh and I met was in Sydney where he was promoting an ultra-low budget Aussie film. Much has changed except that laconic sense of humour. These days, the father of one, is a bona fide Hollywood star. In talking about his expectations of Tinsel Town, the actor says that he “found it more generous than I thought. I thought there would be a little bit of animosity to say, a whole lot of Australians coming in and maybe a little of the ‘prove yourself’ kind of thing, and I think it’s incredibly generous. So, on that front, if you’re up for it and you’re the right guy for the job, you know, they’ll pat you on the back and are very supportive”. Jackman also adds laughingly that he “never expected so many presents. My God, it’s like a land of presents…when things are going well of course”. So far so good.
Jackman is having a blast in his latest film, a multi-million dollar actioner called Swordfish, in which he plays an ex-computer hacker, seduced into joining forces with renegade CIA agent Travolta, in order to make enough money to retrieve custody of his daughter. This is a boy’s film to be sure, and Jackman happily admits that this film “definitely does bring out the boy in me”. Never shy of being for a challenge, Jackman added stunt driving to his list of ‘how to prepare for a movie like this.’ And prepare he did, though it was a ride he seemed to enjoy. “Stunt driving was a lot of fun to do. I went along for the class and the first thing you do in the car, is get in with him and you’re up on two wheels, doing reverse 180’s, and sliding into parking spaces. Within an hour, you’re doing all the stuff you thought you’d never do or thought wasn’t possible”.
In addition to driving like a maniac on-screen, Jackman also had to learn about the world of computer hacking. “I wanted to find out about the world of hacking and I didn’t want to do courses on it or anything like that, but wanted to find out what it was like for someone actually hacking into somewhere and what that world was like. I wanted to visually create the character because I, probably like many people, had this stereotype of what hackers looked like and then found out most of these guys are racier, tougher, very edgy, amphetamines, that kind of whole rave-thing that a lot of them are all into. I saw it as a very adrenaline kind of culture, very subversive, powerful, kind of idealistic and rebellious kind of group”. The actor was so determined to be like every grungy computer hacker he had read about, that he “even turned up on set the first day with a nose-ring at which [producer] Joel Silver kind of went, whoa, hang on. And he looked at it for about five minutes and all of sudden fifteen people were looking at me. I had the director looking at my nose ring before Joel said: No, I don’t want it. That nose-ring would be forty-feet big on the screen and I can’t deal with that”.
Jackman loved the political undertones of his character, once imprisoned by the FBI. “One of the things I’m thrilled about in the script, when I really found out a little bit about the world of hackers, it’s kind of unprecedented in history you have so many young men and women with so much power to be able to hack in and destroy sensitive government information or CIA or spy-material or whatever. There’s really no limit to what they can do. So, fictitiously in the story my character goes in and destroys a government program, which allows them to peruse any e-mail that’s sent anywhere in the United States, which many would think is wrong. Somehow it got under the radar and became legal, so he went in, hacked it and destroyed it. So, that kind of really correlates to what many of the people who are young and very political and vigilant and are almost like vigilantes and very idealistic are out there and as I said, in an unprecedented way, have the power to do something about it. So, I liked that side of things and I liked that in the Gabriel character. He is, in his way, a super-patriot where the ends justify the means. All through history, we sometimes celebrate characters like that or we disdain them for their actions. The movie moves in greys, not black and white and that’s one of the things that attracted me to it”.
Jackman is reunited with one of his X-Men co-stars, Halle Berry, with whom he shares the now famous topless scene. “Well, that scene was a bit odd, for sure”, he admits laughingly. “The thing with Halle and I is, we worked before, but we didn’t do a lot of work together, so it was really good for us to actually work together again and actually do some scenes. She is one of the most dedicated actors I know. That scene you talk about where she’s topless was in the script and it was something that was in there for a reason and you know, a lot has been made out of it and what she got paid for it, etc. etc. I didn’t even know until I read it in the papers”. Nobody mentions that Jackman, too, is topless in Swordfish, and he get paid as much for the privilege? “At least”, he says laughingly. “I think they think I got my compensation OFF-camera”.
Now one would assume that being a convincing computer genius on-screen meant that Hackman may be wired in real life. Far from it and rarely surfs the Internet”. The Internet Movie Data Base is like the only thing I look at, ’cause I’m so ignorant. When I first came to Hollywood, I knew nobody and so my manager would say: I’ve got you a meeting with such-and-such and I’d go: Ah, what have they done? So there’d be silence on the phone where I could tell the guy was whispering ‘fucking idiot’. Well, he won an Academy Award for blah-blah-blah and I say, ah, right. So, that’s my life-line for me, but apart from that, just a bit of e-mail. Somebody told me that there’s this Hugh Jackman Oestrogen Club, which I should check out. I haven’t really seen them, though”. He feels embarrassed when talking about the flurry of female fans who adore his, er, work. “Really? Well, that’s sweet. I’m getting red. I don’t know. I suppose in a way, it’s flattering. As an actor, you kind of hope that they like what you’re doing. It’s a cruel question to ask, really. They like my acting craft, of course”.
With a young daughter, Jackman keeps a grounded existence, and, for the most part, still calls Australia home. “We’re making it up as we go along. We call ourselves Australian-based, but we haven’t lived there for close on three years. We spent almost eighteen months in England and it’s been about eighteen months in North America, so we’re kind of all over the place”. The work is getting more interesting as he scours for the right roles here in Hollywood. “There’s a whole package of things that I look for in a project now and I just want to go: Oh my God, if only I could play that! Do you think they’ll give it to me? When I got offered Swordfish, and heard about the people who were in it, I was like: Someone pinch me, this is just amazing to work with John. I thought the script was edgy and a real action, big summer movie in the best sense of the word. I thought it was a classic of this genre. That’s kind of my yardstick now. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a pantomime, a romantic comedy, an action movie, and a horror, whatever”. Even a musical. “I’m looking to return to the musical stage in the near future”.
Before that, he has X-Men 2 to contend with. “Everyone’s back. Bryan’s directing and I think there’s going to be a few more characters introduced. The script is almost ready, but not quite. I ask for it all the time and it’s not quite ready”. When asked about his character in particular, Jackman added, “I’m pretty sure there’s going to be resolution to his memory lapse. So, where he was heading on the bike at the end of the first one, you’re going to find out what happens there”. Jackman has also completed work on a new romantic comedy co-starring Meg Ryan. “It’s called Kate & Leopold. It was brilliant, a terrific part. It was great working with Meg. She was a very gifted comedienne and a very talented woman who became a good friend. In fact, I was working on the night of my fifth wedding anniversary and so Meg took my wife out to dinner”, he recalls laughingly. “My leading lady took my wife out for my wedding anniversary. Kind of odd”.
What’s not odd is that Hugh Jackman joins the steady legion of Australians making it big in Hollywood. But at least THIS Aussie hasn’t lost his sense of humour.